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Cody Park and the Golden Spike Tower North Platte, Nebraska 7/7/2016

by Chris Guenzler

Robin and I arrived in North Platte and made the first stop of our visit here at Cody Park.

My first view of Cody Park as I walked through the gate into the park.

Union Pacific 4-6-6-4 3977 "Challenger" built by American Locomotive Company in 1943. The 4-6-6-4 type received its name "Challenger" in 1936 during a meeting between Otto Jabelmann, Vice President of Research, William Jeffers, Executive Vice President of the UP system and J. W. Burnett, General Superintendent of Motive Power and Machinery. Burnett proposed a test run for the new locomotive operating unassisted from Ogden to Wahsatch, UT, and then running fast to Green River, WY, before returning to Ogden with another train. Burnett noted such a run really would be "a challenge for any locomotive". "It certainly is", Jeffers replied, "Let's call them 'Challengers'". Immediately after the meeting, Jeffers then sent a memo to the railroad's Advertising Department advising them that he wanted the name "Challenger" to be used in all future press releases about the new locomotive.

Union Pacific 3977 and the semaphore signal.

The Union Pacific station from Hershey, Nebraska built in 1892.

Union Pacific DD40AX 6922 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1969.

Union Pacific baggage/display car 1350 built by American Car and Foundry in 1927 as Baggage Dormitory Car 2760. It was converted to a Postal Storage Car by the Union Pacific and renumbered in 1957.

Union Pacific Railway Post Office Car 2069 built by Pullman in 1914. It was retired in 1968 and went on display in Cody Park the following year.

Union Pacific caboose 25161 built by Pullman-Standard in 1944 as 3861. It was retired after being in a wreck at North Platte in August 1971 and was later donated to the park.

Interior views of Union Pacific baggage/display car 1350.

Interior views of Union Pacific Railway Post Office Car 2069.

Two views of Union Pacific caboose 25161.

Union Pacific refrigerator car 458266.

Cody Park scene.

The rear of the display train at Cody Park.

Union Pacific Railway Post Office Car 2069.

Union Pacific Baggage/Display Car 1350.

Rear view of Union Pacific 3977.

The water column.

Another view of Union Pacific 3977.

Train Board inside the Union Pacific station. From here we drove over to Memorial Park to the other steam engine in North Platte.

Union Pacific 2-8-0 480 built by Baldwin in 1902 as Union Pacific 1901, on display in Memorial Park. From here we went to our final railroad display in North Platte but along Front Street we stopped for a picture.

Maywood Co-op Association GP9 7515, built by Electro-Motive Division in 1957 as Pennsylvania Railroad 7210 then became Penn Central 7210 in 1968. It became Conrail 7210 in April 1976 and was rebuilt at Paducah as 7515 in 1978 before being sold as Maywood Co-op Association 7515.

We then drove the our final destination in North Platte.

North Platte History

North Platte was first platted as a railroad town by chief engineer Grenville Dodge. He chose the location because of the availability of good water nearby, and its distance from Grand Island, Nebraska. The town, first known as "Hell on Wheels", received its first train in 1866. Dodge then constructed major shop facilities and winter quarters for its crews. In 1867 it began conducting main line operations through the town. The early yard was a flat-switched yard with 20 tracks.

North Platte became a division point for UP, where trains are sorted, railroad crews are exchanged, and maintenance or repairs are performed on equipment. Bailey Yard was updated after World War II in 1948 as a hump yard with 42 tracks. Another hump yard with 64 tracks was added in 1968, followed by a diesel locomotive shop in 1971, and a railroad car shop in 1974. In 1980 the 1948 hump yard was replaced with a new 50-track yard.

In 1995, as a result of its massive size, the yard was recognized in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest rail yard in the world. It was featured on the "Freight Trains" episode of Modern Marvels on The History Channel.

Bailey Yard History

Bailey Yard is the world's largest railroad classification yard. Personnel there sort, service and repair locomotives and cars headed all across North America. Owned and operated by the Union Pacific Railroad, Bailey Yard is located in North Platte, Nebraska. The yard is named after former Union Pacific president Edd H. Bailey.


Bailey Yard is halfway between Denver and Omaha. It covers a total expanse of 2,850 acres and is over 8 miles in length and 2 miles wide. The yard has 200 separate tracks totaling 315 miles of track, 985 switches, 766 turnouts, and 17 receiving and 16 departure tracks. Union Pacific employs more than 2,600 people in North Platte, most of whom are responsible for the day-to-day operations of Bailey Yard.

An average of 139 trains and over 14,000 railroad cars pass through Bailey Yard every day, and the yard sorts approximately 3,000 cars daily using the yard's two humps. The eastbound hump is a 34 feet tall mound and the westbound hump is 20 feet high. These are used to sort four cars a minute into one of the 114 "bowl" tracks, 49 tracks for the westbound trains and 65 for eastbound. The bowl tracks are used to form trains headed for destinations across North America, including the East, West and Gulf coasts of the United States, and Canadian and Mexican borders.

The yard also includes three locomotive fueling and servicing centers called eastbound run thru, westbound run thru, and the service track that handles more than 8,500 locomotives per month, a locomotive repair shop that can repair 750 locomotives monthly, and car repair facility that handles nearly 50 cars daily. The car repair shop replaces 10,000 pairs of wheels each year. The yard features an in-motion wheel defect detector developed by Union Pacific that uses ultrasound technology to inspect each wheel. It is the only such detector in the world. UP has also developed a method for changing wheels in the field on empty westbound coal trains, which enables three workers to use a hydraulic jack under the couplers between two cars and exchange the trucks. This has reduced the time needed to replace trucks from up to 12 days to 8-12 minutes.

Locomotives can be serviced in a NASCAR-like pit stop facility called a Run-Thru staffed by four different craft, an electrician, machinist, fireman oiler, and a carmen. Locomotives are serviced in 45 minutes without detaching them from their trains. The cars go through the car department to get fixed and the locomotives go to the diesel shop.

Because of the enormous amount of products that pass through Bailey Yard, Union Pacific describes the yard as an "economic barometer of America".

The Golden Spike Tower

The Golden Spike Tower is a private non-profit organizations, offering guests a birds eye view of the World's Largest Classification Yard. The idea of the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center was first conceived in the mid-1990s as Union Pacific's viewing platform was falling into disrepair. Community leaders thought it a good idea to erect a tower that would allow visitors to get a birds-eye view of Bailey Yard. The Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center opened on June 26, 2008. Take a ride up the elevator to the 7th floor open air observation deck to experience the sights and sounds of the rail yard, or the 8th floor for enclosed viewing. The Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center features a courtyard proudly flying the 23 flags representing each state Union Pacific Railroad serves. The Brick Pavilion honors members of our community, employees of Union Pacific and others with commemorative bricks embossed with the name of the person for which the brick was purchased. On the grounds of the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center is a vintage dining car currently being renovated. When completed, the car will take you back to the romance of passenger trains with both the look and feel of a real railroad dining car with all the amenities. Taken from the Golden Spike Tower web page.

Our visit

We parked in the lot and started our visit to this unique railroad display.

Union Pacific dining car 4613 "Golden Spike" built by Pullman in 1927.

The Golden Spike Tower in North Platte. We went inside and took the elevator up to the seventh floor open air balcony to enjoy the views from the tower.

My first two pictures from the Golden Spike Tower. Now I will give you an almost 360 degree view.

That is the 360 degree view from the Golden Spike Tower and what a great view it is.

Things are always on the move in and around the Union Pacific North Platte yard.

Trains are always on the move in and around the yard.

The train is being crested at the west hump yard.

My last two views from the seventh floor open air observation balcony. We took the stairs to the enclosed eighth floor viewing area.

A corn maze in the field below.

The map of Union Pacific's North Platte yard. This is an excellent train watching facility but alas it was time to leave. We took the elevator back to the gift shop and would like give a special thank you to the Golden Spike Tower for allowing us to visit today. From here we drove to Applebee's for an excellent meal before we filled the car with petrol and checked into the America's Best Value Inn for the night.